Taking the DALF at 50 – First Week of French Class

8 Week Immersion Course at ILA, Institut Linguistique Adenet, Montpellier, France

This first week of language school has been a test of my endurance and perseverance.  It seemed like such a good idea months ago when I decided I would end my French studies by taking the DALF C1* at the end of a two month immersion course in Montpellier. I’ve been working on French for years and I just wanted to find a way to give myself permission to stop. The exam is an artificial end, I know, but somehow to set, and better yet accomplish, this goal would give me a sort of closure.

I had been working with a tutor in person in Washington DC and then via Skype after we moved to Scottsdale AZ. The lessons went well and he even suggested that I should attempt DALF C2, the highest level, which I still believe is above my competency and is generally reserved for those who speak like a native.

Now, after just one week (I have 7 to go before the exam), I’m exhausted and doubting the choices I have made. Based on a computerized multiple choice test and no in-country follow-up interview the language school placed me in a B2 level class. I asked them to let me try C1 which they did for the morning class, but told me the afternoon class was full and I couldn’t change until the following week. At first I doubted my ability, but after a morning in level C1 I am sure that it’s the correct level for me and that the afternoon B2 level class is too easy – the other students do not have the same level of fluency, grammatical skill or vocabulary that I do.

In all my years of immersion school classes I have never been denied the correct level because a class was too full. This is not an appropriate or reasonable way to service paying clients. Keeping classes full may be a good way to manage expenses, but in the long run not servicing your customer ruins the reputation of the school. My case is not unique as I have heard of at least two other similar instances.

Adding to the stress is the 9 hour time difference from home and the effort to keep my head in French. I’m taking a break to write this but otherwise most everything I do is in French – read, watch TV, chat with new friends, etc. At first it’s exhausting and feels as if my head will blow like a clogged pressure cooker. With time everything will get easier, but there is so much to do.

There is no way I can learn and become proficient at everything. I must start choosing the most important elements of the language and more importantly what I need to be proficient at in order to pass the exam.

I will get there, I keep telling myself. Stress will only make the situation worse. I must remember to rest and exercise.

*European language competency levels are A1. A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2 with A1 being the lowest level and C2 generally considered native like fluency.

May 2, 2015

For links to all the posts in this series see the Montpellier page.